Moving to France to live permanently can be an exciting and a daunting prospect, especially if you are retired. But the good news is that in many areas there are clubs and associations where you can meet like minded people, while the slower pace of life means there’s time to chat and say hello. Many British people who have retired to France say it reminds them of what life was like during their childhood. They are attracted by what they see as old fashioned attitudes and a perception that there is less crime. Culture, climate and cuisine are also high on the list for those who choose to retire to France.
The cost of living can be lower in France although not everything is cheaper. If you choose to move to the southern half of France then the climate is warmer and heating costs are likely to be less. There are also lots of festivals and special events that welcome participation from all ages and all nationalities, and this generally makes France an easy place to move to and to integrate into.
If you are moving to a rural area then your local Marie is a good point of contact to start meeting people. Many communes hold annual village fetes and trips and it can also be a source of information about other opportunities. In towns and cities there is an equally wide choice of activities and many have Anglo-French organisations. Notices are often posted in libraries and in bars and cafes. Tourist offices are another source of information to find out what is going on in your area. There are also lots of internet sites and forums for expats in France. Galleries and museums are numerous in urban and rural areas and entrance fees are often reduced for senior citizens.
There is a huge network of clubs and associations in France. A recent survey showed that there are over 1.1 million associations supported by 14.2 million volunteers and 935,000 employees. Associations can be found in all walks of life from sport, music, crafts, hobbies and education to all types of leisure pursuits and they are recognised as an important part of French life. Associations rely upon volunteers to direct and support them and through these associations, individuals are able to make a significant impact in their chosen field as well as meet new like-minded people. If you can’t find a club that interests you, you could always start one.
Life in France – and especially in rural areas – is more traditional in many ways than in the UK. France is a country that respects its elders and there is a sense of community that can be missing in many parts of Britain. Older people are seen as an important part of the community and many are members of local senior citizen clubs and get invited to special events.
There is plenty of scope for voluntary work in France if you want to get involved. A search on the internet or a chat with your local Mairie or town hall will put you in touch with groups in your area. Local libraries are an option for those with a couple of hours a week to spare and they if they stock English books they are often keen to welcome helpers who speak English.
France has an excellent transport system and cheaper tickets are available on the railways for senior citizens. In rural areas there are some bus services into local towns but it might be worth checking their availability if you think you will rely on them to go shopping, for example. Many very small villages are losing their village shops and it is vital to have a car if you live in the country. However, many larger villages and small towns are thriving and they tend to have lots of small shops such as butchers and bakers and weekly markets. It might also be worth checking out local airports for cheap flights to and from the UK for yourself as well as family and other visitors. France can also be a gateway to other parts of Europe by train, road and rail. To reach other European countries you don’t need to look at ferry timetables, you can just go and enjoy exploring further afield.
Being able to speak the language will always be an advantage. If you move next to French neighbours and get to know them then you will be able practice your French on them. Many French people like having English friends so that they can practice their English. But don’t expect everyone to speak English. French people do tend to appreciate your efforts to speak French even if it is limited. Hand gestures and limited French can get you going. There might be a club in your area for improving your French or you could seek private lessons. Most cities and large towns offer part time classes in French at adult education centres.
Keeping in touch
Homesickness and loneliness can affect you in France just as much as it can anywhere and if you retire abroad it is important to keep in touch with family and friends. Low cost internet and telephone packages can make this easier. A web camera means that you can see who you are talking to and they can see you too. Email and blogs are another way of keeping in touch. You can encourage people to visit and if you are near an airport then cheap flights may mean your family can come to visit quite often.
The climate is often one of the top reasons people choose to retire to France. Average winter temperatures range from 32° F to 46° F and average summer temperatures from 61° F to 75° F. For the most warmth and sunshine, look to the Midi, the term the French themselves use for the south of the country. The Provence and Languedoc regions are characterized by mild winters and blisteringly hot summers. Along with the north and central regions, Paris has cool and fairly rainy winters, though summers here are usually hot. Winters are a lot colder in the eastern regions of Alsace and Lorraine and in the mountainous regions of the Alps, the Pyrénées, and the Massif Central.